Don’t get it twisted. Missouri has the best hand at the poker table.
Oklahoma can’t go to the Pac-12 without Texas, Texas can’t go to the Pac-12 without ending their penchant for “being Texas”, and Missouri still has a conditional option for greener pastures.
What does this mean?
In poker terms, it means Missouri has the choice to “raise”.. to “check”.. or to “fold”. In a scenario where Missouri leaves the Big 12 and goes elsewhere, ESPN/ABC and FOX will be looking at their respective network contracts with the conference. There’s no “Texas A&M vs. Texas” on the schedule. There’s no “Nebraska vs. Oklahoma”. There’s no “Missouri vs. Nebraska”. There’s no “Nebraska vs. Texas”. There’s no “Oklahoma vs. Missouri” on the schedule. You’re kidding yourself if you think the networks won’t be wondering why in the hell they would want to pay top-dollar for only “Oklahoma vs. Texas” every year.
The agreements are based on handing out large sums of money in exchange for compelling weekly sports programming. With another heavy-hitter leaving, the Big 12 just isn’t compelling at all (with the exception of one Saturday per year). Adding TCU or BYU or the Kansas City Chiefs doesn’t change that.
With Oklahoma President David Boren simply holding a press conference the same day (with the same information) as Big 12 Chairman Brady Deaton screamed of self-importance and was out-of-turn. Furthermore, holding that press conference BEFORE Deaton’s was incredibly disrespectful. As casual as the decision to knowingly “steal thunder” must have been, it tells me that Oklahoma’s President:
a) Doesn’t fully trust Deaton’s ability to convey the information;
b) Doesn’t believe Missouri is totally behind the new structure and has a foot out the door anyway;
c) Knows that the rest of the conference doesn’t trust Deaton, in general;
d) Feels like he is the unofficial mouthpiece of the conference and his words/actions carry more weight;
e) WANTS to be the mouthpiece of the conference;
f) All of the above (which isn’t out of the question)
(Imagine the Vice President hopping on TV fifteen minutes before the President gives the “State Of The Union” address.)
As much as Oklahoma wants to make this about them, they can only bluff. This is really a matter between Texas and Missouri.
Oklahoma has more clout within the conference at this point. But they also are no longer a threat to blow a hole through everything, anymore. Missouri could.
With the way the Pac-12 scenario played out, it basically handed Missouri the pistol. Maybe Nebraska and Colorado leaving the conference wasn’t crippling. But Texas A&M set to leave for the SEC with bags packed full of oranges and iced tea, most certainly is.
Missouri is in this position today because they are the last of the relevant markets remaining. Texas knows this. Oklahoma knows this. ESPN & FOX knows this.
Strangely and ironically, Missouri leaving the Big 12 at this juncture would be more damning to the Big 12 than powerhouse Nebraska leaving for the Big Ten a year ago.
Missouri can raise the stakes and force Texas to fold. If Texas decides to hold their ground, Missouri should win the hand and leave the Big 12.
As proud Oklahoma Sooner fan and WWE announcer Jim Ross used to say as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin sneered down the aisle with a Budweiser in his hand:
“Business is about to pick up.”